This week’s Expansión column: holacracy, no job titles, no bosses

I decided to dedicate my first weekly column in leading Spanish financial daily Expansión after the holiday season to discuss holacracy, the new management model that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and which is now attracting a lot of attention following Zappos charismatic founder Tony Hsieh’s announcement that he intends to implant this model within the online retailer, which employs 1,500 people, within the space of a year. One consequence of the move would be that the charismatic Hsieh would step down as CEO. The Spanish-language article is called “Holacracy: no job titles, no bosses” (pdf).

Holacracy is characterized by a horizontal structure, transparency, and, and a technology base able to coordinate responsibilities among staff and to show what each person needs to be working on. This is nothing if not a provocative subject for a financial daily: we are talking about companies abandoning the vertical power structures, with their layers of bosses, that we have known since the beginnings of management organization, instead opting for management systems more in tune with the times we live in, where flexibility, agility, and decentralized innovation define a company’s success.

Companies work better without job titles or bosses: hierarchies cost money: dividing work up on the basis of job titles is a distraction, taking the focus away from real work to power games.

That said, holacracy clearly won’t be for all companies. To begin with, it’s not going to appeal to managers who have spent their lives climbing up the power ladder and who want to hold onto their coveted positions. It’s not going to appeal to people who think along the lines of: “You have bypassed me in the power structure by talking about this with my boss”, or people who need to know where they are in the scheme of things if they are to feel secure.

Nor will it necessarily appeal to everybody on the shop floor: if you aren’t a self-starter, or if you need authority as a way of obliging you to do things, holacracy isn’t for you. My column is really just a way of introducing readers to the concept. Anybody interested in looking into this more deeply, should read the following articles:

— “The Power of Governance“, Brian Robertson

— “Zappos is going holacratic: no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy“, Quartz

— “The limits of leadership development“, Brian Robertson

— “The next big thing you missed: companies that work better without bosses“, Wired

— “Holacracy Constitution v. 4.0“ (pdf),

— “Holacracy Constitution in plain English“,

— “Holacracy: how it works“,

— “Evan Williams on building a mindful company“, Medium

And here’s the full text of my article:

Holacracy: no job titles, no bosses

Imagine a company with no managers and no power structure, an organization where the workforce, whose business cards carry no job title, because there aren’t any, organizes itself in small groups within which individuals take on different roles, managing their activities in a completely transparent environment.

This type of organizational structure, known as holacracy, is being studied by some of the most-admired and advanced companies in the world, while others are already moving toward applying it. Zappos, the company set up by the legendary Tony Hsieh, and which regularly tops the best-company-to-work-for lists, aims to implant this philosophy over the course of this year, and with it, improve efficiency, flexibility, and its ability to adapt.

Most of us have only ever worked in one type of organization: characterized by vertical, hierarchical power structures. We all know the problems this can create: paperwork, time wasting and inefficiency, power struggles between egos who refuse to give up their hold on power, obsession with promotion… problems that we accept because we can’t conceptualize any other way of doing things. But the reality is that maintaining these organizational systems are extremely inefficient, with few real advantages.

The reality is that, given the right amount of motivation and the required coordination, made possible by software, an organization can be much more efficient and productive without the need to rely on traditional power structures. Technology has a key role to play here: it allows us to see how groups, tasks, and individuals are interconnected, and what each of us is doing, and what still needs to be done.

New times, new scenarios, and new methodologies adapted to them: coming soon to a company near you.

(En español, aquí)